Could the music industry do more to help artists and songwriters whose income has been hit by Coronavirus?

The world’s creative industries have taken a beating from measures put in place to try and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a third of the planet’s population under lockdown, music festivals cancelled and production on film and TV sets delayed, many of the artists, crew members and execs that make up the wider creative sector are now facing severe financial hardship over the coming months.

In a gesture which will be remembered by the movie business for decades, Netflix on Friday announced a huge $100m Coronavirus relief fund for those working in the film and TV industry – especially those “paid hourly wages and [who] work on a project-to-project basis”.

In a statement, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos (pictured) explained: “We are only as strong as the people we work with, and Netflix is fortunate to be able to help those hardest hit in our industry through this challenging time.”

The financial magnitude of Netflix’s response to the Coronavirus crisis is currently unparalleled by any single entity in the music industry.

That said, German performing rights organization GEMA has created an emergency fund worth up to €40m ($43m) for songwriters, while its UK counterpart, PRS For Music, has launched its own equivalent (though declined to reveal its total size).

Some other companies have stepped up to the plate to help out, with the likes of Songtradr and BandCamp announcing fee/commission waivers in an attempt to provide much-needed assistance to creators.

And today (March 25) we learned that Spotify will be making a financial contribution of “up to $10 million” to help artists and other members of the music community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike Netflix, Spotify isn’t writing a simple check – its full funding will arrive if music fans / industry figures donate enough via an online Spotify portal.

Spotify will match these donations, it says, “dollar for dollar” until its $10m pledge is all spent. (This obviously comes with the caveat that, if only $100 is donated through Spotify’s website, the streaming company will only have committed to pay $100 “dollar to dollar”.)

Now, UK-based songwriter and composer body The Ivors Academy – which runs London’s world-famous, songwriter-focused Ivor Novello Awards – is calling on digital platforms and collecting societies, in particular, to do more.

Specifically, the org is asking these parties to agree to “divert over £100 million ($119m) of black box streaming royalties into a new Coronavirus hardship fund”.

“Black box” money refers to those royalties linked to unmatched or unattributable distributions – i.e. where there’s insufficient data on the music that was played – which, on the publishing side, are then typically distributed on the basis of publisher market share.

Writing on MBW last year, Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, said: “It is estimated that more than 20% of song streaming royalties globally may go missing, unmatched or severely delayed through this system.”

“Millions of pounds will presently go to those who are reporting massive profits and huge margins from streaming. This is wrong.”

Graham Davies, The Ivors Academy

That 20% figure was cited again today by The Ivors Academy CEO, Graham Davies, in his call for the industry to do more for creators amidst the pandemic.

“There is an estimated 20-30% of streaming royalties which are currently paid on a market share basis, because there is insufficient data on who was played,” said Davies. “This means millions of pounds will presently go to those who are reporting massive profits and huge margins from streaming. This is wrong.

“We call for these black box royalties to be paid into hardship funds for musicians so that targeted help can get to those most in need.”

Another interesting suggestion on this topic has been put forward by Colin Young – the director of widely-respected London-based music accountancy (aka business management) firm, C.C. Young.

Young, whose company works with a range of talent as well as industry figures, has proposed that large-scale record labels and publishers could support those artists under contract to their companies with discretionary advances amid the COVID-19 uncertainty.

Writing in an email to a prominent music manager this week, obtained by MBW, Young suggested “that publishing companies and record labels give due consideration to those artists under contract and assist them by providing them with discretionary advances”.

“In the current circumstances, the recording artists are not going to be able to deliver a record and crystallise their recording advance on delivery.”

Colin Young, C.C. Young

Young proposed the following two solutions from these companies:

1) All invoices rendered by songwriters and recording artists be paid strictly within 30 days.

“The major labels apply additional resources to secure necessary signature of producer agreement and this should not be used as a reason for non-payment. Instead the emphasis should be on payment, and administration should be secondary.”

2) Publishing companies and record labels be receptive to discretionary advances to songwriters and recording artists under contract:

“In the current circumstances, songwriters are not going to be able to crystallise their delivery advance and in turn their release advance. In the current circumstances, the recording artists are not going to be able to deliver a record and crystallise their recording advance on delivery.”

He added: “Why not pay 50% of the delivery advance now, whilst the band members are in isolation and not able to attend the recording studio?”Music Business Worldwide

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